Clean energy from building façades

A loan supported by the InnovFin-EU finance for innovators initiative under the EU's Horizon 2020 programme and extended by the European Investment Bank (EIB) is enabling German firm Heliatek to boost production of an organic solar energy-generating film that can be used on office blocks.

Rooftop panels and solar farms need a lot of space to generate enough energy to power a business but space is at a premium in most business districts. However, companies still want to reduce their carbon footprint. Dresden-based firm Heliatek has now found a way of using the vertical expanses of building exteriors to produce electricity.

Heliatek’s HeliaFilm can be easily integrated into the façades of new or existing commercial and industrial buildings or sandwiched between layers of glass in office windows.

It thus transforms buildings into huge energy-producing units. This means that even companies based in highly built-up areas can generate their own clean energy.

HeliaFilm is lightweight, thin and flexible, and comes as either opaque or transparent. It is based on an organic molecule synthesised by Heliatek’s own laboratories so its production doesn’t put additional pressure on deposits of the rare earth metals often used in photovoltaic technologies. By using several layers of the molecule, Heliatek ensures that the film produces energy even during periods of low-level sunlight.

“With our HeliaFilm, we are clearly executing our strategy to provide de-carbonised, de-centralised energy generation directly on buildings all over the world,” says Heliatek chief executive Thibaud Le Séguillon.

The EU finance came at a point when Heliatek needed to raise additional finance to boost its production capacity to the levels needed to make HeliaFilm commercially viable. This expansion also included the creation of 50 high-tech jobs.

“It’s a poster case,” says EIB investment officer Julie Chevaillier. “It demonstrates the EIB’s commitment to support highly innovative start-ups with the potential to make a significant impact on climate change.”

The result is a product that makes solar energy available right where it’s needed, particularly in the heart of cities all over Europe. So the vast façades that dominate city centres and industrial zones might soon be helping to save the planet.

Project details

Project acronym: Heliatek
Participants: Germany (Coordinator)
Total costs: € 20 000 000
EU contribution: € 20 000 000
Duration: from September 2016